What does 2020 have in store for organisers, event caterers and food traders? Mark Laurie, director of NCASS, the Nationwide Caterers Association, gives Stand Out his insight and reveals some of the trends and challenges that the events/festivals industry should look out for

  • Three years of Government inertia due to Brexit seems to have come to an end, for the time being at least with the election of a majority Government. The Brexit-stalled Regulating Our Future programme will be the biggest shake up of enforcement in the UK for 30 years and will arrive imminently. A system that has been creaking under ten years of austerity and swinging cuts to enforcement budgets, created before the Internet that is arguably no longer fit for purpose. We expect caterers to be asked to enhance the level of transparency within their business to avoid paid for interventions and inspections. For events and concession managers, this should mean more available information with which to make informed choices on who to hire. As all NCASS members can store their “vitals” on the NCASS Connect system, we are hoping that greater use of this by traders and organisers will avoid the need for paid on-site inspections or HSE-style charges to events to enforce on site. With local authorities around the country now charging for re-inspections and some even touting “pre-inspection chats” at £140 a pop, we will have to work hard to avoid unhelpful local authority charges for events and traders.
  • Allergens. The word sends shivers down the spine of many a caterer – and for good reason. One mistake could kill a customer. With several high-profile tragic cases of young people suffering fatal anaphylactic shocks, legislative changes are due imminently. Preparing caterers for these new additions but also ensuring that they are up to speed with the principles of allergen management (stock management and cross-contamination) to keep customers safe and well fed this summer will be a priority. The risk is real and as events take a more prominent role in curating the on-site catering, liability could be a worrying question for all. We are looking to work with the Food Standards Agency to inform food businesses and events of their current and new obligations in time for the new season.
  • With the launch of Festival Vision 2025, COP26 in Glasgow and a winter where swathes of the southern half of the planet seemed on be on fire, climate change is likely to be an increasingly important factor/harder to ignore for both events and punters. With such a significant percentage of global green house gas emissions attributed to food, especially ruminating livestock, we expect a greater proportion of customers to adopt veggie, vegan and flexitarian diets over the coming year, with this charge being led by younger metropolitan customers. Dairy, beef and industrial farming are likely to face the brunt of this consumer backlash, with bio-diverse farming, plant forward or plant based and oat “milk” likely to be championed.
  • NCASS is again working with A Greener Festival to deliver an updated version of Eighth Plate. Empowering events and caterers to manage surplus food more effectively, diverting it from landfill to those in need. Look for the new Eighth Plate website in the spring and end surplus food waste at your event.
  • With the experience economy taking hold of the narrative, curating caterers is likely to become the norm as events look to sell the whole lifestyle package as opposed to risking it all on headliners. Charging hundreds of extra pounds for a glamping experience then offering cheap and cheerful food probably won’t wash. With the quality and choice available at street food events and amongst the best event caterers, event organisers have never had such a diverse choice of foods to bring in to align with the event they are producing. We expect organisers to take a greater role either in directly curating traders or working with successful street food organisers. We have already seen Street Feast at Latitude, Digbeth Dining Club at Cheltenham Races and Made Festival and KERB popping up all over, as well as more established concession providers such as D&J Catering and Green Events offering street food at festivals and shows. The key to great curation is understanding the audience. On a spectrum of cheesy chips to lobster, where do your customers sit?